Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review: Thy Womb (Sinapupunan)

DECEMBER 6, 2013

“Played by acclaimed actress Nora Aunor, she carries the film through its many passages and depictions of the Bajau’s lifestyle.”


Note: 'Thy Womb' is the Philippines' hopeful entry for the Golden Globe Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. U.S. : None Yet. International Sales Agent: Solar Entertainment Corporation

Giving birth to a child is a defining moment in every woman’s life. It represents the fulfillment of a biological purpose. It is also the promise of hope in a new being. Each society across the globe infuses the miracle of motherhood with its own particularities, but there is a unanimous appreciation and respect towards mothers as symbols of prosperity and keepers of a continuous cycle of life. Ironically in Brillante Mendoza’s film Thy Womb, the protagonist, a midwife unable to bear a child for her husband, decides to find him a fit woman to deliver him an heir. With immersive filmmaking and a breathtaking setting, this slice of life feature transcends mere ethnography to bring to the screen an augmented and visceral vision of reality.

Few words are ever spoken by Shaleha (Nora Aunor ), but her expressive eyes convey a religious peace and a love that knows no boundaries. Knowing that her partner Bangas-An (Bembol Roco) is reluctant to adopt a child and aware that her infertility won’t let her satisfy that necessity, she takes matters into her own hands. What she needs is simply a surrogate mother, someone who can provide him with such joy. Nonetheless, in this Bajau Muslim island community there are rules to abide by, and finding a mother for her husband’s child essentially means searching for a new wife. Lacking any sort of jealousy or selfishness Shaleha’s unconditional love motivates her to help him find the right young lady. Not only must they obtain permission from the woman’s family but they are required to raise a sizable amount of money and goods as dowry. Together they sell fish, trade, borrow and scrap as much as they can until they are able to afford Bangas-An's new wife.

Rendered to help others become mothers but never getting that opportunity herself, Shaleha is a character fueled by faith and not tormented by the poising nature of human desire. Played by acclaimed actress Nora Aunor, she carries the film through its many passages and depictions of the Bajau’s lifestyle. Nurturing and assertive she is indeed a woman more than capable of caring for a child, but the cards she has been dealt require her to act with selflessness. Naturalistic and minimal her performance resonates even in the silent and humble poetry that permeate the images.

Relying upon a basic storyline, the magic of the film lies in its design. Form is more relevant here than any twist and turns in the plot. Arranged with an eclectic cinematic grammar, the director incorporates aerial shots of the sea gypsy community combined with underwater sequences, slow motion observational shots, and seemingly traditional filmmaking that are always in motion, never static. The camera is alive, it moves around this world with grace. It is also completely conspicuous making the viewer aware of its presence. Mendoza places his characters in the real world and films them, which creates a sort of raw fiction that is neither entirely scripted or fully documentarian. Still, for all the experimental elements he includes, Mendoza made a film about tradition that simultaneously inspires a sense of discovery. Via its postcard-worthy landscapes and all-consuming spirituality, Thy Womb is a film that revels in its apparent simplicity, which makes for a compelling and revelatory piece. It lets outsiders intrude into a place undamaged by modernity and functioning in harmony despite being surrounded by external turmoil.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Forum Kritika: Guy on the Edge

Posted on November 25, 2013 / Filed under Call for Papers / Permalink
To describe Nora Aunor as a fixture in Philippine cinema is like saying that Shakespeare knew how to wield a pen. Of course a national cinema will be larger than the sum of its stars, just as literature is much more than what its canonical authors might suggest. But just as there will be writers and then there’s Bill (and Leo and Virginia and a few Johns), contemporary Pinoy movies can already be understood as featuring any number of stars, starting with that name, first and foremost, and everyone else’s afterward.

As a Philippine multimedia star, Nora Aunor (“Guy” to her fans) was sui generis, with Filipino cultural observers, starting with Nick Joaquin, taking careful note of her emergence, then barely as an adult. Her growth as a prominent performing artist can be tracked in milestones that a large group of loyal devotees, now dispersed in several countries, are able to recount from memory. A simplistic way of explaining her success is that she had been extraordinarily gifted and cannily aware of her strengths and limitations, so that she could identify exactly which challenges she could excel in; a significant number of her detractors would add that she had also been lucky as well as shrewd in exploiting the right kind of people.

Nevertheless even Aunor’s worst critics would be unable to deny her multifarious accomplishments in film, theater, television, and musical recording, as well as her iconic significance as a genuine one-of-the-masses type of phenomenon: rural poor, dark-skinned, unruly and deeply ambivalent in her attitude toward the trappings of success. In line with discussions of film auteurs and star texts initiated by such publications as the Cahiers du Cinéma as well as scholars like Richard Dyer and Christine Gledhill, Kritika Kultura will be covering the persona and output of Nora Aunor as the topic of a forthcoming forum.

The forum invites scholars of Philippine star-text studies, spectatorship, and the performing arts to provide assessments of the person (and her persona) originally hailed as the country’s first “superstar.” Paper proposals should be submitted electronically to the forum editor, Joel David, at <joelsky2000@yahoo.com>, no later than November 30, 2013. Any contribution will be acknowledged within 48 hours of receipt. Authors whose proposals are accepted should finalize their articles (5,000 to 7,000 words, observing the sixth edition of the Modern Language Association handbook) on or before January 31, 2014. These articles will then undergo the standard process of double-blind peer review for academic journals.

Proposals should consist of no longer than a one-page submission, comprising the following: title of the submission; name(s), affiliation(s), and short description(s) of the author(s) [up to a maximum of two per article]; topic area of the submission; three or four keywords that describe the submission; contact information comprising mailing address(es), e-mail address(es), and/or phone number(s); and a single-paragraph paper proposal. Kindly note that fan studies may be considered, but fan testimonials and hagiographic appreciations, no matter how vital to the subject, will not in themselves be appropriate material for the journal. For further inquiries, please contact the forum editor (email <joelsky2000@yahoo.com>) or Kritika Kultura (email <kritikakultura@gmail.com>, cc <kritikakultura@admu.edu.ph>, <kritikakultura@yahoo.com>, and <vincenz.serrano@gmail.com>).

Source: Kritika Kultura

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thy Womb special screening (A benefit for Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda victims)

Anthology Film Archives
New York, NY



US Medical Support LLC and Thigh High Production LLC, in association with Advancement for Rural Kids, Inc present "Thy Womb" special screening for the benefit of typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda victims.

We are raising funds to help victims of the recent monster typhoon that hit the Philippines, which left hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes and millions in need of basic necessities like food and water.

Proceeds will go to Capiz, a province in Western Visayas that's in a State of emergency. With the help of Advancement for Rural Kids, Inc., they are providing emergency feeding and relief to kids and their communities in rural Capiz. ARK is all volunteer.

Brillante Mendoza's "Thy Womb" is listed among the contenders for the Best Foreign Film at the 2014 Golden Globes. This is a story of unconditional love about a Bajau midwife coping with both the cultural burden and gendered irony of her own infertility amid the deprivations of her gypsy community in Tawi-Tawi, Philippines.
A saga of island life stuck between the devil of passion and the deep blue sea of tradition.

The Screening Date will be on

December 1, 2013 at 12:00 noon to 3:00pm

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Samahan po natin sa pagbangon ang mga kapatid nating nasalanta ng bagyong Yolanda.

Sa sinumaman po na nagnanais na makiisa sa Panawagan ni Ate Guy, maaari po kayong mag deposit sa account na ito:

Glorina Tugade
BPI S/A No.: 8469-0517-58
Canlubang, Laguna Branch

Paki-email po ang iyong deposit slip dito: arthurofthechildjesus@gmail.com

Maraming maraming Salamat po!


The Philippine Star
Novemebr 14, 2013



Rumors that Nora Aunor is about to be proclaimed National Artist have been circulating the past few weeks. Everyone involved in the process of nomination is bound by a vow of secrecy, but since I was not involved this year (I usually am), I can speak freely about why I think Nora Aunor deserves the title.

I actually nominated her for the title a long time ago, but was eventually voted down, because there were, at that time, quite a number of film directors who were deserving of the honor.

There are still a few individuals who seriously question two things: first, why a film actor should be a National Artist, and second, why Nora Aunor.

First, that film is as much of an art as any of the other categories is clear. There have been several film artists named as National Artists: Gerardo de Leon (1982), Lino Brocka (1991), Ishmael Bernal (1999), Eddie Romero (2003), Fernando Poe Jr. (2006), and Manuel Conde (2009).

All these artists, however, were directors. Even Poe was named not only as an actor but also as a director. The question remains why an actor (“actor” is the politically correct term for all performers, male or female) can be a National Artist. After all, in film theories during the last century, film was always considered a director’s medium. It is the director who puts together the elements of a film, acting being only one of those elements.

Poe, however, opened the door to actors, because his achievement as an actor was considerable. It is impossible to think of him only as a director; his iconic image is that of both actor and director.
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The early 20th century theories argued that the juxtaposition of images or sequence of shots could make it appear that an actor was happy, sad, or angry (thereby negating the actual emotion felt by the actor). That was last century. In this century, thanks to newer theories of film, acting is now considered as much of an art as that of a director. Actors actually take advanced degrees in acting, such as the Associate in Fine Arts in Acting for Film of the New York Film Academy. It has helped that several foreign actors have shown that they can take on varied roles and still create credible and powerful characters.

No one today should doubt that acting is an art.

The second question is why Nora Aunor. There are other Filipino actors, after all, that have shown similar versatility, depth of emotion, command of facial expressions, subtlety of subtexts, and other elements of film acting.

Take the list of skills that a great film actor should have, as Jeremiah Comey lists them in “The Art of Film Acting,” namely, concentration, not knowing, acceptance, giving and receiving, and relating. Each of these skills needs years of training and experience. One wondrous thing about Nora Aunor is that she has all of these skills, not because she had formal training (she briefly studied the Stanislavski Method and acted in workshop-intensive PETA), but because she had them from the very beginning. Even when she was just starting out and had to take on juvenile roles, she already showed an instinctive grasp of the art of acting.

My 1984 book, “Movie Times,” had her on the cover, for good reason: she acted in many of the films I dissected. Although the chapters in that book dealt with film directors (it was the 20th century, after all), I still had to discuss her acting in the films by those directors. She was, in a sense, already pushing me then to expand my idea of film art to cover not just directors but actors.

An artist must be judged by her or his best works. (Otherwise, we would forget Shakespeare, who wrote some really awful plays.) Nora Aunor will be remembered forever for her roles in “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos” (1976), “Bona” (1980), “Himala” (1982), “The Flor Contemplacion Story” (1995), and “Thy Womb” (2012), among others.

Nora Aunor has been recognized through nominations and awards in the Berlin Film Festival, Cairo Film Festival, and Venice Film Festival – all major film festivals – as well as other film festivals in Australia, Belgium, Dubai, Macau, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Russia, and Singapore. Needless to say, she has won many times over all the Philippine awards possible.

These are achievements on the level of art. I do not even mention her popular tags as one of the Ten Asian Best Actresses of the Decade, the Actress of the Century, the Philippines’ Best Actress of All Time, and of course “Superstar.”

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bongga Ka ‘Day: The Legend of Nora Aunor

(This article was first published in print in issue 20 of the Philippine Collegian on 12 December 2012.)

by Anton Chua


Source: http://www.philippinecollegian.org/bongga-ka-day-the-legend-of-nora-aunor/


A young woman, clad in white, prays to the heavens to receive a vision of the Virgin Mary. Silently, her beautiful almond eyes are placed in focus, then the camera pulls back to show her kneeling and steady, until at last she is completely visible, motionlessly in awe of her vision. It is here, in this unspeaking moment, that she is at her most expressive.While this unfortunate woman, Elsa, would go on to be fatally shot later in the film, the performance behind the character would live on forever. In Ishmael Bernal’s masterpiece Himala, Nora Aunor gives her most recognizable performance as faith healer Elsa, in a role that parallels her own mythical nature.

Nora Aunor ranks among the greatest of Filipino artists, endowed with such superlative titles as “Superstar,” and conferred with a long list of awards, the breadth of which could only be dreamed by other thespians.

More than this, however, she is a figure of mythical proportions, larger than any of her roles or even her own persona. Practically worshipped by fans, and seemingly made to represent ideals larger than herself, Nora Aunor is an unparalleled legend in the Filipino entertainment industry.

Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M.

Nora Aunor, or “Ate Guy,” grew up as a member of the masses, a short, dark-skinned girl who at the time could hardly be confused for a star. Her career began at a radio singing competition in Naga, called Darigold Jamboree. Nora joined in order to help her parents pay for her sister’s tuition. Winning this and many other amateur competitions, she soon made it big as a professional singer, her magnificent contralto delivering record-breaking sales.

She also starred in her own TV series, a variety show, at first called the Nora-Eddie Show when it was launched in 1967, and then renamed The Nora Aunor Show in 1968, and was ultimately known as Superstar. Movie appearances followed, with her nabbing her first FAMAS nomination in 1972 for the film And God Smiled at Me. It was here, when she started to enter film, that the myth began to take shape.

“There is no Nora Aunor film that does not script her ‘own’ life,” writes Barnard College professor Neferti Tadiar. These performances typically characterize her as a lower-class martyr who values helping others and suffering for them in service, mirroring her own humble beginnings. In becoming this myth, both her own persona and her characters are elevated to heights that exceed how they would otherwise been regarded.

This semi-autobiographical nature of her films build a sense of aspiration from the audience that is underscored and enhanced by Nora’s status as a very down-to-earth celebrity, who looks or acts nothing like the tall mestiza beauty queens who usually grace the silver screen. She is an everywoman, not a goddess, but she was able to achieve all of these things through effort and perseverance – and this makes all the difference to her fans.

T-Bird at Ako

Certainly there are many great actresses and singers out there with plenty of fans, but Nora Aunor’s fanbase is of particular note. Noranians, as fans of the famed actress are oft-called, are among the most enthusiastic and energetic fanbases of any celebrity. They’d go as far as to threaten to stage a rally if their star doesn’t win an award.

Reverence of her image takes place at almost religious levels. Tadiar writes of a story of a wealthy neighborhood in which daily life was disrupted, because all the household maids had gone off to watch a nearby shooting at which Nora Aunor was present. Art history professor Patrick Flores recounts statements from members of the Grand Alliance for Nora Aunor Philippines, in which they “would affirm that Nora Aunor is the sole reason they ‘spend countless hours, experiencing sleepless nights, working day and night.’”

“The social profile of Nora Aunor fans is usually characterized as lower class, consisting of housemaids, slum dwellers, and market vendors; any wealthy Nora fans are considered an exception to the rule,” writes Dr. Bliss Cua Lim of the University of California, Irvine, in describing the Noranians.

Director Cesar Buendia notes what immediately made Nora so special and celebrated: “She became a hit when it was in vogue to be fair and mestiza. The fans were waiting for someone they could identify with. She was like Manny [Pacquiao] in her time. That, combined with phenomenal singing and acting talent made her a superstar.” Behn Cervantes calls her “the Dark Pinay who toppled the White Tisay,” saying that her ascendancy “coincided with the rise of rabid nationalism during the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

Dr. Lim writes that Nora is the only “short, dark, low-born actress in the Philippines” to achieve as much success as she did, given the competition of stars who were definitely tall, white, and of higher class. In being such, “she seems to encapsulate the most progressive anti-colonial aspects of Filipino masscult.”


Relative to this myth, Nora the human is not quite so perfect; she supported Marcos in the 1986 snap elections, pleaded guilty to drug charges, and endured money problems and unemployment in the United States.However, her triumphant return to the country in August 2011 reified the ontological aspect of the mythical Nora Aunor figure.

“Bakya temporality,” according to Tadiar, is when the social elite believe the poor masses to be backwards in their culture and are unwilling to change, unready to move forward. Nora, like her alter-ego Elsa, is a “heretical saint,” whose trajectory is unlike anything the gatekeepers of high culture has ever witnessed. In light of this, the heretic figure of Nora Aunor represents a subversion of the elite’s almost-colonialist assertion that the poor are “not ready” to advance or contribute.

The value of the Nora Aunor mythical figure lies in how she maintains the hope of those who suffer, who find themselves at the bottom rungs of the social ladder. Interpassivity, in which people project themselves and their aspirations onto people or objects, is described by philosopher Slavoj Zizek as the delegation of sensation to the object. With the mythical figure of Nora Aunor as an interpassive subject, one can see that her representation of the masses runs far deeper than just being a source of inspiration. If Nora falters but gets back on her feet, then it shows that someone like her can have faults but still recover.

That said, Nora and her characterizations never seem to extricate themselves from their suffering. This is in sharp contrast to the characters of her contemporary and rival, Vilma Santos, whose roles in films such as Sister Stella L and Dekada ’70 depicted women who were empowered despite their context, not simply remaining passive to their tribulation. The final heresy lies in shattering the mythical figure of herself, in breaking the shackles of the Nora persona and hurl the character of the martyred woman into the annals of history once and for all. To borrow the title of one of her unfinished projects – the sole copy of which is reportedly in her possession –that will be Nora Aunor’s Greatest Performance. ●